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Slogans Are Still In, Yaknow. (AirAsia vs. MAS)

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There's an all-around fear that slogans will make us look silly or lame.
 
I get what it feels like. Sometimes I cringe when I read slogans that are just too cheesy or trying too hard to be funny. They don't add to the brand, they detract from it. And it's sad because the brand is clearly trying to highlight something. They become memorable, but not for the right reasons.
 
But on the other hand, you have slogans that are so vague that you don't know what they're referring to, and you're not interested in finding out. This is bad too, because these brands are missing out on a huge opportunity to get in people's minds and make an impression.
 
If done well, slogans are 100% worth the time and effort we spend in developing them. In a world where space is precious, a one-sentence slogan can be used again and again. Where do we use them? Some of the examples are:

  • Social media bio/description
  • Packaging
  • Business cards
  • Advertisements
  • Networking events
 

The slogan has to be so short that people can understand it in just 5 floors.

Wait, why 5 floors?

Picture this: you're taking an elevator down from the 11th floor. Suddenly you notice someone in the elevator with you. Someone with a lot of money to invest (and wants to invest it somewhere).

He's going to get out on the 6th floor. So you only have 5 floors to pitch your business to him before he gets out. You have to persuade him to invest in your business, instead of other people's.

This thing is called an elevator pitch. It's usually for hooking investors, but the same principle applies to attracting customers. How can you hook them?

Use the slogan to tell people how you're different from your competitors. 

  • How are you special?
  • How can you benefit your customers' lives?

You NEED to know the answer to these questions so that you can convince your customers.

Let's look at two competing brands using very different, but equally captivating slogans.

 

AirAsia: "Now Everybody Can Fly."

Flying has always been a luxury for many. And there are people who haven't been on a plane at all. Even if the trip planned isn't that expensive, the cost of flying itself is a deterrent. But with AirAsia, flying has been redefined. With its incredibly low prices, now just about everyone can fly.

They took the thing that they did best (i.e. low prices) and framed it in such a way that anyone reading the slogan knows how they will benefit from these low prices. It's easy to understand and focus on the customers.

This is important. Slogans are for customers to understand and appreciate, not the owners!

One of my most favourite marketing advice that I want to share with you is to "sell the sizzle, not the steak", which means you have to sell the benefit and not the feature.

Sell the sizzle, not the steak.
Sell the benefits, not the features.

For example, if your new product is a wrinkleless shirt, highlight the fact that the wearer can still live out of his / her suitcase and still look smart. Of course you'll have to mention the feature, but the benefits must take centre stage. Talk about the benefits of having a wrinkleless shirt.

You have to tell people WHY they should care. Because they will look smart. Because they will feel confident. Because they'll have a glowing complexion.

The AirAsia slogan didn't mention the low prices at all (steak). It focused on the accessibility of flying to the people (sizzle). Everyone from the travelling 25 year-old eager to see the world to the student who's pining to go back to his hometown can fly. And it's so easy for them to book a ticket. 

But it's undeniable that AirAsia's low prices only get you to your destination. There's no in-flight entertainment and you either have to pre-book or purchase your meals on board. The experience is minimal, the destination the ultimate aim.

 

MAS: "Journeys Are Made By The People You Travel With."

"The people you travel with" highlights awesome Malaysian hospitality in the form of the stewards and stewardess of MAS. The slogan also focuses on the journey.

If AirAsia was about your destination, MAS is about the experience of flying. If I had money to splurge, I would go for MAS.

Since I was little, anything that has to do with flying always seemed so fancy. Back then, there was no AirAsia. Now at 23 years old, flying is still fancy to me! The whole experience is something to be excited about. Boarding the flight, putting on the safety belt. I also really, really like airline food for some reason. 

They also have in-flight entertainment and the seats are super comfortable to sink into. In short, the experience itself is memorable. They're selling the experience.

It makes sense that they're highlighting the journey. How good the journey is justifies the cost. Some people prefer to be comfortable when they travel, because they value the journey as well as the destination.

Let's look at the breakdown one more time:

AirAsia

  • Unique angle: Extremely low prices
  • Benefit: Everybody can travel even if they have a small budget.

MAS

  • Unique angle: Malaysian hospitality
  • Benefit: Everybody can travel in comfort and style.

Slogans are pretty useful, right? It's only one sentence, but one that conveys a lot. Whats's your favourite brand slogan?


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Tapping Into Basic Desires to Find Your Angle.

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We buy stuff all the time. And where there are multiple brands selling the same thing, we make a choice. What makes us choose one brand over the other?

There's usually a reason at work. Sometimes, there are multiple reasons. To make people choose your brand, you have to first provide the reason at the most basic level.

These reasons stem from basic human desires. At a glance, they are:

  1. Survival. Longevity, health and well-being.
  2. Food. Flavour, quantity, and novelty. 
  3. Safety. Freedom from pain, fear and danger.
  4. Sexual companionship. Attracting the opposite sex and enhancing appeal.
  5. Comfortable living conditions. Convenience and ease.
  6. Status. Keeping up with other people and maintaining standards.
  7. Protection of loved ones. Children, parents, and partners.
  8. Social approval. Fitting in and not being ostracized. 

Some reasons are pretty hard for people admit to themselves. For example, nobody likes to outright admit that he or she buys something to seek social approval. Some are pretty obvious and general, like food and safety. 

I'm going to list down a few examples and the reasons they appeal to for their marketing. It's okay if you don't agree with any of them, because we may process the brand message differently.

  • La Juiceria: survival, food, status
  • Guarded residential areas: safety, status, protection of loved ones
  • Samsung phones: status, social approval

Now, identifying the angles doesn't mean that we diminish their actual quality. I'm not knocking these products, but merely listing down the reasons that they choose to emphasize.

After we have identified the basic desires/reasons for purchase that we want to emphasize, crafting the brand message should touch on these reasons. If you look at the promotional items used by the brands above, you'll find that they use words related to the reasons often.

I'm going to use dUCk scarves as an example. The description in the brand's Instagram bio reads:

"The new cool for scarves."

What do you think is the basic desire that it emphasizes?

My guess is status, which is reflected by other aspects of its branding. Scarves can be bought for RM 20, yet dUCk scarves sell for at least RM 120, making it a luxury brand as far as scarves go.

(Related blog post: 4 Things You Can Learn from dUCk Scarves About Branding)

Other descriptions used by dUCk scarves (found on their website) are:

  • "The premier destination for quality scarves."
  • "dUCk specialises in Premium Basics, a collection of plain scarves made from various luxe fabrics as well as Prints – limited edition designs for special collections from time to time."

Since it consistently and cohesively appeal to the "status" reason through its visual identity and marketing materials, people in its target market do view it as such. 

Identify the reason that your product is serving so that you use it as an angle and create an attractive brand message.


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Spice Up Your Business With An Angle.

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Branding differentiates you from your competitors.

Business A and Business B both sell clothes. Their products are similar, and are in the same price range. Both have Instagram accounts. Unfortunately, they doesn't have a compelling or memorable story that they could market. Their branding may be "pretty", but there is no added value for the customers. No angle.

You can't have great branding without an angle. 

(Side note: Isn't it interesting how Malaysians basically took over Instagram and made it an e-commerce site of sorts?)

Lady X, who is a potential customer, follows both businesses on Instagram. She hasn't purchased anything from either of them yet, but decides to do so in a few days. When the time comes, she has a hard time deciding between the two. So she chooses based on price. The difference was only RM5-RM10. 

When customers choose based on price, most businesses will suffer. There will always be someone who will offer better prices than you do. If you have to lower prices again and again, your business will not move forward.

People will associate your business with "cheap", and you know what "cheap" implies? Low quality. Inferior status.

There's a reason why Chanel handbags and Louboutin red-soled heels are called "branded products". It's because they took the time to cultivate their brand. Not only that, they made the story consistent across all platforms.

The quilted texture of the Chanel handbags were similar to that of jockey jackets, because Coco Chanel was a big fan of horse racings. The red soles on Louboutin heels signify a woman feeling sexy and confident. Did you know that their red soles are legally trademarked?

The basic key elements of their marketing strategy are luxury and craftsmanship, but they spiced it up a little more by adding these little details to their brands.

Little by little, these details add up. They present a cohesive and memorable experience for their customers.

So regardless of their extremely expensive price tags, people pine and long for them. It may seem impossible that our products will ever reach their price range, but it's not. You can charge premium prices for your products, if you:

  1. Focus on quality.
  2. Market an angle that benefits your customers. 

Being just another business from the cookie cutter may pay the bills, but it won't give you the satisfaction of cultivating a business that transcends time and location.


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